10 DIY New Year Projects to Tackle

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The clock is ticking down to the new year. That means many things but here are two to consider. Since spring will soon be here it’s time to start planning new year projects. After all, it is a time of new beginnings. Also, right around the temporal corner is income tax refund time to fund those new projects. This may be good news for many–under President Trump’s tax bill, the marriage penalty is mostly gone and the standard deduction is vastly improved.

With those considerations in mind, consider these 10 home improvement and personal improvement projects.

Start Exercising More

A healthy runner is a happy runner.
A healthy runner is a happy runner.

Pick your sport. For me that means running. Worried about the cold weather? Don’t. It’s not a problem with these cold weather running tips. Other activities are good candidates and one bit of good news is that many are quite inexpensive. Walking and running really only requires comfortable clothing and the right shoes. Cycling is great but requires a heavier investment. Swimming is good if you have access to a pool or open water such as a lake or a beach.

Install a Rainwater Collection Barrel

A Rainwater Harvesting Barrel
A Rainwater Harvesting Barrel

Rainwater collection or rainwater harvesting as it is sometimes called is becoming increasingly popular. The idea is simple; as you can see in the above photo, you just install the barrel under the downspout from your rain gutter. A screen on the top keeps leaves and other debris out. The black overflow tube at the top can be directed wherever you like and the spigot at the bottom is threaded to accept a garden hose. It works on the gravity feed principle and provides water for your garden or flower bed. Need more water? Link the overflow tube to another barrel. Using this water not only saves money on your water bill, but plants prefer the pH of rain as opposed to tap water.

Install an A/C Condenser Coil Misting System

Cool-N-Save A/C condenser misting paddle
Cool-N-Save A/C condenser misting paddle

This simple innovation will really save on your electrical bill during the summer heat. When the compressor kicks on, the upward breeze from the fan lifts the paddle. This opens the valve allowing cool water to flow to the four misting nozzles. This lowers the ambient air temperature which reduces the amount of work the condenser coils must do. This inexpensive tweak saves money and installation requires only about 30 minutes and some basic hand tools.

Make Needed Roofing Repairs

A new roof with a dormer
A new roof with a dormer

Having a solid, secure roof is critical. They can really take a beating during the winter. They should be inspected, and repaired if needed, twice a year. Minor repairs such as replacing individual shingles or flashing can be done on an individual DIY basis. For more extensive work, hire a roofing contractor.

Build a Walk-In Kitchen Pantry

A Walk-In Kitchen Pantry
A Walk-In Kitchen Pantry

If your home is anything like ours, there’s just not enough storage space in the kitchen. My solution? I built a walk-in kitchen pantry. As you can see in the photo, the back door in the kitchen opened into the garage. I just “stole” some space from the garage and installed the walls (with insulation), turned the existing door into a case opening, and added an energy-efficient door into the rest of the garage. If you are comfortable with framing, hanging drywall, and laying ceramic tile, this is a great weekend DIY project. Follow the link for details.

I certainly hope these DIY New Years projects have inspired you. If so, I would appreciate you sharing these pages with your friends. Have a great New Year and thanks for visiting!

See the Next 5 DIY New Year Projects Here


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Glass, Ceramic, and Porcelain Floor and Wall Tile

by Kelly R. Smith

A glass tile wall with an accent strip
A glass tile wall with an accent strip

Article updated on 08/09/20

Tile is a very advantageous building material. It’s durable, inexpensive (usually), available in a huge range of styles, and easy to install with a few tools. Here are a few of the most common types of wall and floor tile that you are likely to encounter.

As with any new or remodeling construction project, it is important to approach it methodically and go in with a solid plan. Consider your construction budget, the living area and of course your style and tastes.

Glass Wall Tile

Glass tile is a great solution for shower walls and counter top  back splashes. The photo above is a bathroom shower glass tile installation that I recently did during a re-build following the Great Flood of ’18 (Hurricane Harvey).

This tile is clear glass with a colored paper backing which means it’s somewhat transparent at some angles and lighting conditions if the colors or marks on the underlying wall vary. Because of this it is important to apply a suitable white primer before applying the tile. Also, use white thinset as an adhesive.

Be aware that you will also need a special glass-cutting blade for your wet saw. Glass also chips easily so if you are making a narrow cut it is not only important to make a half cut and then flip it over and cut from the other direction but cut very slowly.

Ceramic and Porcelain Tile

Porcelain and ceramic tile is suitable for floor, kitchen back splash installation and wall applications. The difference between the two is susceptibility to water absorption due to content of materials and how they are fired and boiled.

The advantage of porcelain is that it resists moisture much better than ceramic so consider your application. It is also more costly in general.

Going Beyond the Ordinary; Tile Patterns

A 3D ceramic tile pattern
A 3D ceramic tile pattern

There is no reason that your tile installation project has to be bland. The photo above shows a 3D center area with a border tile pattern that I am currently working on. It is available through Home Depot and is the Twenties collection by Merola and the pieces are Diamond (for the 3D center), Corner, and Frame. And of course for the outside I’m using matching gray tile of the same size.

In my case they didn’t carry it at my local Home Depot store so I ordered online and picked it up there in a week or so. Free shipping!


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Choosing and Maintaining Residential Fences

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A partially-completed privacy picket fence.
A partially-completed privacy picket fence.

This article was updated on 07/29/20.

Almost all homes will benefit from a backyard fence. They offer privacy, they let your children and pets romp without running off, and they serve as a deterrent to would-be thieves and vagrants (the fence is security for the back, the Ring Doorbell works for the front). If the home contractor did not install a fence during construction, it is up to you as the homeowner to take care of it.

Even if you already have a fence, it may be old and in extreme disrepair. Or perhaps you just don’t like the look of it and want a different style. Either way a new fence is a great home improvement project.

Types of Fences

But that is not a bad thing. There are many types to choose from. In fact, there are at least 10 types of popular residential fences. Just choose the one that fits your style and budget. Consider these:

  • Chain link. Not the most attractive but affordable, durable, and porous in those high wind areas.
  • Vinyl-coated chain link. This is a bit of an upgrade that allows for a wide range of durable colors.
  • Fence slat. A modification of chain link where plastic slats are inserted through the openings in the fence, offering privacy, security, and protection from the wind.
  • Aluminum fencing. Its benefits include low-maintenance and weather-resistance.
  • Wooden pickets. Very popular because they are easy to install and are attractive.
  • Post and rail. This will give your property a more country look, similar to the split rail type fence.
  • Decorative lattice. If you are going for an attractive style that you can train climbing roses on this might be the one for you.

Maintaining Your Fence

Seeing as how your fence lives outdoors in the elements, it will require some maintenance from time to time. Some types require painting, some require pressure washing and some require picket replacement periodically. Picket life can be extended by spraying a water-repellent or sealing coat on them.

If you have to repair or replace a section that intersects at a corner, you might wonder how to do it right. Not to worry; here is a detailed explanation on how to construct the section and tie a picket fence in at a 90° angle.

Fence gates can also be an issue. Not only are they subjected to the elements but they also get a lot or wear and tear from opening and closing. I found an easy solution to replacing my own gate recently using an Adjust-A-Gate Steel Frame No Sag Gate Building Kit.

In short, when it comes to residential fence choice and maintenance, you have decisions to make!


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.



Does Your Home Have Enough Fiberglass Insulation?

Winter or Summer, You Probably Need More Thermal Mass

by Kelly R. Smith

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Loose fill attic insulation and fiberglass batts
Loose fill attic insulation and fiberglass batts

Of course, fiberglass insulation is the most common insulation in existing homes and new construction. It doesn’t require any special equipment to install and it’s more economical than spray foam. In fact, it is one of the easiest (although itchy) DIY projects to increase your home’s energy-efficiency.

What’s up with Soy Spray Foam Insulation?

Nope, not a joke. If you’re familiar with the fact that soy beans are an easy to grow crop and do well in many climates, you’ll understand why it makes such a green and sustainable building material.

Soy spray foam insulation is sprayed on as a liquid which quickly expands and fills all voids, making a very air-tight building. You might hear it called a tight envelope. And it’s water-based so there’s no questionable chemicals.

Now is the Time To Beef Up Attic Insulation

If your home is already built and occupied, insulating walls can be problematic to do yourself, but installing attic insulation is a snap. And it’s not always so hot up there to make it a miserable job if you do it in the spring or fall.

But that stuff is itchy! That’s because the tiny fiberglass fibers stick into the pores on your skin. There are ways to handle it, though. You can wipe your arms down with fingernail polish remover. The active ingredient is acetone. Save big bucks by buying a can of it at the home improvement store.

I used to install a lot of the stuff in the summer when I was installing suspended acoustical ceilings and framing walls and hanging drywall. I lived in an apartment at the time. After work I’d just slip into my swimming suit and hop in the pool.

That took care of it. I suspect that it just washed off, although logically, it seems like the cool water would tighten up the pores. Whatever. It worked

Rockwool: the Insulation From Hell

Rockwool is the worst, no doubt about it. It’s also a fiber kind of construction material. It also has some glass-like chunks of stuff I can’t even speculate about. I just know they would dull the blade of a utility knife quicker than anything I’ve ever seen.

How Much is Enough?

Good question. It’s tempting to say as much as you can stuff up there, but there is a point of diminishing returns. Owens-Corning (the pink panther people) tell us “The amount of insulation to add depends on two factors – the amount and type of insulation already in place and the recommended R-value for your location.” Well, duh.

The minimum in the US depends of where you live but the average maximum that the government recommends is R-60. In the south, the minimum is R-30. It increases as you go north, finally getting to a minimum of R-48 if you live in, say, Nebraska or Minnesota.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.